Some Unkinda Wonderful
I'm dating a guy who's sweet and attentive when we're together, but frequently stands me up. Once, when he didn't show for our date, I called him on his cell. He said an emergency had come up, and he'd be over later. He never arrived. The next day, he said his sister was sick and he was running an errand for her, which took longer than expected. (He couldn't take two minutes to call me and cancel?) Another time, he specifically promised we'd spend the day together, but never showed and wouldn't answer his cell. Whenever I protest, he somehow convinces me I'm taking it all wrong. Granted, he's been having tough times: he's moving while starting a new job. I told him, if he needs space to work everything out, I'll understand and we can pick up when he's settled. Despite this, he keeps making promises and leaving me hanging. Should I back off until he's more settled, and hope he's more considerate then? Should I stick with it and try to learn to handle things better? I don't think I can live with constantly being stood up, but he seems so great otherwise. —Waiting And Worrying
He seems so great "otherwise"? That's like saying Hitler was a really great guy except for that little matter with the Jews, gypsies, Catholics and gays.
Are you this man's date or his public defender? By the time you finished describing what an unrepentant cad he is, you pretty much exonerated him — and concluded everything's all your fault. Let's see ... he wouldn't have hurt your feelings if he hadn't stood you up. He wouldn't have stood you up if he hadn't asked you out. And he couldn't have asked you out if you didn't exist! Ah hah! But, you do exist. Which means you — not him — are the one to blame. Uh-oh. Better start brainstorming now so you'll be ready to make it up to him the next time he doesn't show up.
What alternate universe are you living in? If your standards were any lower, you'd have to access them with an oil-drilling rig. The first time a man stands you up should be his last, with few exceptions. Acceptable exceptions include coma or death. Excuses involving others' medical emergencies should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
The guy claims he was running an errand for his ailing sister. Question One: Where was he running this errand? Underwater? In the Andes? Surely, there was a good reason he didn't call you — which brings us to Question Two: Does he even have a sister? And, have you actually seen this sister, or have you just heard about her — in the form of an excuse? Take a peek at the classic cheater personality, identified in a 1997 study by psych professors Todd Shackelford and David Buss, as a combination platter of self-importance, impulsivity, unreliability, lack of empathy, and general scheming user-hood. Sound like anybody you know?
Being willing to do anything to keep a man practically guarantees you won't have a man worth keeping. Essentially, you get what you act like you deserve. Dump this toad immediately, and go on a dating hiatus until you're ready to use your backbone for more than draping clothes. In our e-mail exchange, you said you'd sooner run naked through the mall than stand anybody up. Why would you accept any less in return? Remember, that's the only question to ask yourself, should you cross paths with a cad — not "Who will silkscreen that dancing feet diagram on the back of all my clothes, so he knows where to step next time around?"
The Weakly Standard
Many thanks for slapping me around. Your candid response to my e-mail about being repeatedly stood up made me come to my senses and dump the offending guy. Now, I realize I probably don't have fair and realistic expectations about how I should be treated. How do I know where to draw the line?—Fairly Confused
You tried changing everything to please a man — probably down to ditching your day-of-the-week underwear for an abuse-of-the-day set — Walk All Over Me Wednesday, Treat Me Like Dirt Thursday, and the ever-popular Infidelity Friday. Your efforts landed you a man you had a lot in common with — how little you both thought of you. It's time you stopped peering over your shoulder to see whether a man looks like he'll be leaving, and altering your behavior accordingly. Figure out what you value, then stand up for it — no matter what. Try approaching dating not as a popularity contest, but as an unpopularity contest — a test to see if you've got the self-respect to be spurned. Winning does mean chasing away a bunch of guys — those seeking girls who have yet to get the difference between being a good sport and filling in for the kickball.